Wednesday, 1 February 2012


This article is published in today's Leicester Mercury:
"We should be looking to ban the EDL march in Leicester"
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has been urged to ask the Home Office to outlaw Saturday's English Defence League march.
The call was made yesterday by former city council leader Ross Willmott.
He said he was concerned at the potential for disorder breaking out along the route allocated to the group, which includes Belgrave Gate, the Clock Tower and Church Gate.
Instead the group – whose members turned violent during a previous demonstration in the city in October 2010 – should only be allowed to go ahead with their "static" demonstration outside the city centre, Coun Willmott said.
The EDL yesterday appeared to agree to the route and conditions laid down for it by the police by posting a message to its supporters on its Facebook page, saying they should arrive at the agreed departure point – St Margaret's Pastures – at the time stipulated by police.
Coun Willmott, who claimed other members of the council supported his position, said: "The march will allow the EDL to effectively take control of these streets in the city centre.
"It's astonishing that the police have advised the council that these people should be allowed to parade along a busy shopping area on a Saturday.
"The march will be intimidating for many people."
He also criticised the route allocated by police and the city council to Leicester Unite Against Fascism.
The group has been offered a route which begins at city council headquarters, in Welford Place, and includes Pocklington's Walk, Horsefair Street and Charles Street.
Sir Peter defended his handling of the protests and said he was acting on police advice. The council still has time to apply for a ban on marches, he confirmed.
He said: "The fact is that over the past two weeks I have met community leaders, faith groups and businesses who have been almost unanimous in saying they do not want us to seek a ban on the march.
"They were concerned there would be a repeat of the violence we saw in October 2010 and have encouraged us to do all we can to minimise disruption in the city centre on Saturday.
"The advice we have had from police is they are confident they can contain the march.
"On the last occasion, when they were banned from marching and held a static protest, the city centre was effectively closed for 24 hours.
"We have learned lessons from that and do not want to see a repeat of that violence."
Leicester Unite Against Fascism members will decide shortly if they are happy to stick to the route given to them by police.
However, they are unhappy with the route given to the EDL.
Jackie Lewis, chairwoman of the group, said: "We are disappointed the council and the police have allowed the English Defence League a route through the symbolic heart of the city centre.
"This area belongs to the people of Leicester, not the English Defence League which is, largely, busing people in from outside the area."

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